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Starting Strong

gradmap starting strong

As you settle into graduate school, it is a good idea to learn more about your department, your support network, and your profession. Every graduate program is different and every graduate student has unique goals for what they want to accomplish and learn while at Illinois. Learning about degree milestones and the requirements of your chosen field will help you set goals and make a plan for your graduate studies.

Below are five tips to help you get off to a good start.

1. Learn about program and Graduate College requirements.

Understanding academic milestones and what is necessary to achieve them is an essential part of setting goals and making progress in your program. Review the Graduate College handbook and your departmental handbook to become more familiar with your degree requirements. Links to these resources and more can be found on the Academic Expectations page.

2. Ask Questions!

Understanding academic milestones and requirements can be tricky. Luckily, you have a team of people ready to help you! Connecting with your support network is a great way to learn more about requirements (both written and unwritten).

Additionally, we've identified five questions to ask your support network to help you learn more about your department and profession. Take a look at our video (below) or read through our blog post for more tips.

3. Connect with Others in Your Department

Getting to know other students, faculty, and staff in your department will help you expand your network. Check out your department website for upcoming events you can participate in, ask if there are any listervs you can join, and find student organizations (both in your department or Registered Student Organizations) to connect with.

4. Connect with others in your Field or Profession

Another part of graduate school is understanding the culture and requirements of your chosen field and/or profession. Look through the websites for professional organizations in your discipline, attend conferences or networking events, or reach out to people with jobs that you are interested in. Getting to know more about your field will help you better map out your graduate studies.

5. Reflect and Start Setting Goals

As you collect information about your program and field or profession, set aside some time to reflect on your goals for graduate study. How does the information you collected align with your current plan? Are there any skills you would like to develop and if so, how can you get started? Is there more information you need or additional people to connect with? Reflecting on these questions will allow you to start identifying goals and incorporating them into your plan. Seek out campus resources to help you develop your skills and look for opportunities to build your support system and network. Our Campus Resources and Support webpage and the Graduate College workshops and events calendar are great places to start.

It is a good idea to regularly set aside time to reflect on your graduate school experience. Are you making progress on your degree milestones? Are there any new skills you would like to learn? Is there anyone else you would like to add to your support network? Have your goals changed and if so, how? Keep in mind that the Graduate College, your department, and the campus community are here to support you!